The University Network

It’s Time To Start Eating Popcorn With Chopsticks

If you’re sick of your campus food, try them in unconventional ways to enjoy them all over again like the first day of your freshman orientation, a new study suggests.

In the study, a pair of researchers from the Ohio State University (OSU) and the University of Chicago wondered if changing the way we consume “old” things could influence our enjoyment.

“I am interested in how people can maximize the enjoyment they experience through consumption,” said Robert Smith, co-author and assistant professor of marketing at OSU’s Fisher College of Business. “Unfortunately, we adapt to things quite quickly, and that lowers our enjoyment, so we were especially interested in whether unconventional consumption methods might disrupt this hedonic adaptation.”

He conducted the study with Ed O’Brien, an associate professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

Their paper is published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Why do we get tired of old things?

Satiation is an economic principle that says the more of a good you consume, the less of satisfaction you will get than the previous time. Every next bite of that hamburger will not be as satisfying as the first one.

In short, as long as we live under time, every new thing will eventually become old.

While this may sound very natural, many businesses struggle with satiation. As satiation accelerates, customers’ demand will decrease. Especially in today’s world, where trends come and go too quickly, businesses struggle between creating new things and keeping the repurchase level steady.

Not only for businesses, but also for individuals, the simple solution of throwing out the old and replacing with the new is not only bad for the environment, but also a luxury not given to all.

So, what can we do about satiation?

The researchers conducted three different studies involving activities that are normally consumed in a monotonous way. And by twisting how we normally consume them, they expected to find an increase in the “first-time” feelings.

Eating popcorn with chopsticks

In the first study, researchers recruited 68 people, of whom 33 were assigned to a control group, eating 10 kernels of popcorn using their hands, one at a time, and the remaining 35 to an experimental group, eating with chopsticks. And each group repeated the trial twice.

Then, the researchers asked the participants to rate their experience using a scale of 1 to 9 on a variety of measures, including how much they enjoyed the popcorn, how flavorful it was, and how much fun it was to eat it.

The researchers found that while people who used the chopsticks reported enjoying it more than those who used their hands in the first trial, in the second trial, both groups reported they enjoyed the popcorn equally.

“This suggests chopsticks boost enjoyment because they provide an unusual first-time experience, not because they are a better way to eat popcorn,” Smith said in a statement.

New ways to drink water

In the second study, the researchers recruited 300 participants to complete an at-home taste test.

The participants were divided into three groups.

All of them were asked to drink five consecutive sips of water, but the instructions for each group varied.

While one group had to drink normally for each sip, and another had to drink in the same unconventional way for each sip, the last group had to come up with different unconventional ways for each sip.

Examples of unconventional ways include drinking from a martini glass and a shipping envelope, and even lapping at the water with their tongue.

Then, they rated their enjoyment for five consecutive sips of water.

The researchers found that those who drank water in different unconventional ways enjoyed the water the longest.

Watching a video with hand-goggles

In the final study, conducted one in a lab and another online, the researchers showed the participants a one-minute video of an exciting motorcycle ride filmed with a GoPro camera from the driver’s perspective.

The video was repeated three times.

All participants watched it twice normally and were asked to rate how much they enjoyed it after each viewing.

But for the third viewing, one-third watched the video using “hand-goggles” — forming circles with their thumbs and index fingers around their eyes, another third watched it upside down, and the final third watched it in the conventional way.

The researchers found that those who watched the video for the third time with hand-goggles enjoyed it the most. Those who watched the video upside down didn’t enjoy it very much because, even though the viewing was unconventional, it was also disruptive.

But did those who used hand-goggles really enjoy the video more — or did they just like the strange experience?

The researchers suggest the unconventional way of watching really did make the video itself more enjoyable.

After the study, the researchers offered to let all participants download the video to keep — and three times more people who watched with hand-goggles asked to download the video than those in the other two conditions.

“They actually thought the video was better because the hand-goggles got them to pay more attention to what they were watching than they would have otherwise,” Smith said in a statement. “They were more immersed in the video.”

What does it mean in the real world?

The researchers suggest these studies give insight to businesses’ marketing strategies and personal consumption.

Businesses should note that setting a trend may have less to do with the product itself than how they are consumed.

“First, it’s a reminder that people like novelty, and there is no limit to the ways that a business can provide something typical like ice cream in a new way. The dining in the dark trend is a good example, but there are countless others,” said Smith. “Second, food providers should encourage their customers to vary the methods by which they consume food.”

And for individuals, before throwing out the old sofa that’s still in good condition, try arranging it in a new way to enjoy it again.

“It may be easier to make it feel new than you might think. It is also a lot less wasteful to find new ways to enjoy the things we have rather than buying new things,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith plans to continue researching ways to enhance consumption enjoyment and attention.